Today is the 6th anniversary of my town's senseless tragedy. No tragedy and no experience can compare to one another, and I am certainly not trying to compare. But I cannot let this day go by without acknowledging the tragedy and beauty to come out of my favorite place on earth. Below is a repost of my thoughts from last year, and although I didn't get to run this year, my feelings have not changed.
"I ask each of you to take the time to be a Hokie this week. Appreciate life a little more, take in every moment around you, count your blessings, tell the people around you that you love them, slow down, remember what's truly important in life … And live for those 32 that do not have that chance anymore."
I cannot believe it has been five years.
Five years ago today I was sitting in my high school senior government class, anxiously anticipating college. The next four years of my life. The biggest change I could have faced thus far in my life. And 300 miles away, someone was changing my college forever.
You all know the details, some more than others of that awful day. I cannot imagine having been there. Waking up to snow flurries and going back to sleep or getting up and making it to class made all the difference that day. I can't imagine waking up to a text message telling me to turn on the tv or hearing whispers in class and hiding under a desk in Torg, watching the Swat team swarm campus. I can't imagine being in Norris Hall that day, or in A-J or a parent of a student or a student or anyone other than who I was. Simply a girl whose entire childhood revolved around that school in the mountain. That girl whose family vacation money was spent in the walls of a football stadium and around the Duckpond and in the Litton-Reeves parking lot. A girl who knew the magic of the orange and maroon color combination and who felt the heartbeat of the Hokie Nation. Who was proud to wear the iconic VT on a t-shirt or a sweatshirt and knew what a Hokie is, or was. I can't place myself there and I never,ever want to take away from anyone who was.
32 white balloons in honor of those fallen.
I have never known a college experience without a memorial, or a candlelight vigil, or a 3.2 mile run in honor of the 32 on April 16th. I have never attended a class on April 16th. I have never been able to tell someone where I attend school that hasn't asked me if I was there, as if that would make their approach to me different in someway. Maybe they'd be more reserved, talk quieter, avoid asking more questions, I honestly have no idea. I usually answer a quick no, and we move on with our conversation.
Orange and maroon balloons for the Hokie nation.
I know my Virginia Tech. The place where we have had two smaller-scale tragedies since that day. Two tragedies in combination with that day that have caused my beloved school to be called "cursed" by a local newspaper reporter without a sense of tact or a knowledge of how strong our community can be when it is attacked.
Before the 3.2 run.
I know my Virginia Tech, post April 16th Virginia Tech. The resilient community that cleaned up the aftermath of this awful, tragic, horrible day with nothing but grace, respect and the drive to better ourselves in honor of our Hokies. I can think of no one else I'd rather be and no other community I would rather be a part of.
Crossing the finish line.
I ran on Saturday, I will stop for the moment of silence tomorrow and attend the vigil tomorrow night. I will neVer forgeT. I will watch Nikki GioVanni read the poem and I will cry with chills every time I hear "Lets Go Hokies" chanted in Cassell afterwards. I will stop and pray and remember those students, who were younger than I am now, who lost their lives that day. I won't ever pretend like I was there and lived through that experience in Blacksburg that day, but I won't ever forget this day in my own life. I am a part of a community that was incredibly resilient. I am a part of a community that stood together and stands together and will continue to after I leave this place in four short weeks. I am a Hokie.